I recently had the chance to interview Anna Bance, founder of Girl Meets Dress. The idea is something which has been successfully done in a number of industries and Anna is looking to ensure that this becomes a huge success in the retail fashion industry. Lets find out more:
First off can you give me a bit of background to yourself?
After completing my degree at The London College of Fashion, I worked at InStyle magazine, The Telegraph magazine, Harpers Bazaar, and then I joined Hermes as UK PR Manager where I stayed for 3 years before launching Girl Meets Dress.
Tell me about Girl Meets Dress:
Girl Meets Dress is a disruptive eCommerce business with a mission to democratize luxury – believing that everybody deserves a Cinderella experience. We provide millions of women the ability to rent designer dresses and accessories for a fraction of the retail price, allowing them to look and feel, beautiful for all of their special occasions.
The idea of collaborative consumption is now making a big impact around the world, whether it is somewhere to stay (Airbnb) or a car (Whipcar) – and now designer clothing.
Where did the idea come from?
The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009 when I was working as UK PR Manager for French Luxury brand Hermes - and like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending the collection of dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists…
I thought to myself "wouldn't it be amazing if we could all borrow dresses for just one event, and wear a different designer for every event in our calendar?”
When we looked into the market we saw that no one was doing it. We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online and it is wonderful that Girl Meets Dress is now pioneering the way for rental as a new and exciting ecommerce category of its own.
At what point did you feel that this is what you wanted to do full time?
I was full time with the company from day 1!
What was the biggest challenge when starting the business?
When we started, ensuring we have a full team in place while bootstrapping was no easy feat. We were lucky to find so many hardworking and ambitious staff to stick with us and the vision.
Becoming knowledgeable in so many different areas is challenging but it definitely helps to have 2 co-founders with complimentary and different skill sets.
Fulfillment and logistics is an area which has to evolve and improve all the time as the company grows and orders increase. New processes and staff roles have to adapt to demand for the product to maintain efficiency.
How did you fund the business initially?
We have 100% bootstrapped the company, self funding it to date.
What do you think has been key in growing your business?
We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online and it is wonderful that Girl Meets Dress is now pioneering the way for rental as a new and exciting ecommerce category of its own. Retail and consumer habits are changing significantly, both in terms of expectations but also in terms of value. The growth in rental is testament to that change.
Rental is a way for consumers to extract all the value without none of the headaches; women can now easily wear more relevant, trend led, time-sensitive fashions, while continuing to invest and buy only in those classic pieces which will stand the test of time.
The proliferation of social media, including Facebook has a lot to do with an increasing social pressure which has heightened the growing desire for people to make a statement with their fashion and for a women’s inherent desire not to wear the same dress twice.
Celebrities have always been borrowing dresses for special events, and now that everyone is a mini-celebrity in their own world, all women can have access to this luxury.
I must admit fashion is not my strong point, but fashion is all about trends and seasons, what happens to dresses when they become out of season?
As with any multi brand retailer, the clothes are bought from the designers at the start of the season, and then sold (or in our case rented) until the following season. At the end of the season we sell the remaining dresses, or decide to keep the best performing dresses for an extra season, depending on customer demand. Then the new season’s dresses are bought and the cycle repeats.
How did you get your first few customers?
When launching a new company, one of the most important and impactful skills to have is the ability to promote and market the product and brand to get that all important traffic through the doors.
PR for us was a huge element in growing the awareness of Girl Meets Dress so I couldn't have wished for a more suitable previous career!
What does the future hold for GMD?
Without giving anything away, Girl Meets Dress is proving the potential to be huge!
We have ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead. We want to continue to grow the collection of stock, the team, and to innovate within the wider Fashion space.
We will continue our leadership of this emerging space and be in a position to wow our customers in every way possible and to forge a brand and quality of service which women will wonder how they managed without, giving women access to the biggest closet in the world!
What advice would you give any aspiring entrepreneurs?
Although not 100% necessary, I recommend choosing an area that you know something about. There are exciting ways to pioneer every market, whichever field you love. Of course, you can learn about any new topic – but will you be able to compete with people with years of knowledge and expertise.
Find a Co-Founder with different skill sets to you. This is a brilliant way to launch without needing to hire a full team on day 1. If you can split the main areas of the business between you, then you can launch with minimal cost and test the product at market – which is the first step to seeing if there is demand.
Don’t over think it. There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary decrease, take a chance on an idea which might not work – but what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!